Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented opportunity for Nigeria to reset critical sectors of its economy.
Osinbajo spoke yesterday during a virtual media conference, where the Global Citizen, a global movement for citizen-led actions to eradicate poverty and improve human living conditions, announced a collaboration with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to establish Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund.
The media conference also had in attendance, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed; Chairman of the Board, NSIA, Mr. Jide Zeitlin; Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji; Chairman, Global Citizen Nigeria, Mr. Babatunde Folawiyo; Vice Chairman, Global Citizen Nigeria, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, and Chief Policy and Government Relations Officer at the Global Citizen, Michael Sheldrick.
According to the organisers, the initiative aims to mobilise Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora as well as global partners in the philanthropic and private sectors to support the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
They, however, declined to announce the amount the fund will be targeting, saying it will be disclosed during a formal launch. The NSIA is to act as the fund manager.
Osinbajo described the initiative as a creative, forward-looking and thoughtful response to the challenge facing the country due to the pandemic.
He said: “The COVID-19 challenge is also an unprecedented opportunity for us as a nation and as a people to reset the critical sectors of the economy. The disruptions in business and commerce, especially on account of the lockdown, have meant that we must develop a comprehensive economic and social response.
“This fund would support them. It will also support the Social Investment Programme of the government.”
Folawiyo explained that funds to be mobilised through the initiative would target four areas, including supporting the most vulnerable; strengthening healthcare systems, universal healthcare access as well as re-skilling and retooling in Nigeria.
He described the Global Citizen as the world’s largest movement of action takers and impact makers dedicated to ending poverty by 2030.
“Global Citizen has the power to drive lasting change around sustainability and equality. In Nigeria, Global Citizen would mobilise Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora, we would also call on our global partners in the philanthropic and private sectors to join our fight against COVID-19.
“Nigeria’s recovery from this deadly pandemic requires the commitment of every one of us. Through the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund, together and in solidarity, we would build a more responsive and resilient Nigeria aftermath of this disaster.
“That is why the Global Citizen is honoured to join the NSIA to launch a campaign later this month which would engage each of us as Nigerians to do our part, take action and to help mobilise support for this critical effort,” he said.
Aig-Imoukhuede said the fund was being established to provide immediate as well as long-term support in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that the fund, created by Nigerians, for Nigeria in response to the pandemic would mitigate the effects of the pandemic and support economic recovery in the country.
“Our areas of focus are to support the most vulnerable. The most vulnerable include not just those affected directly by the virus, but mental health issues as well.
“The vulnerable in terms of those suffering from significant abuse at this point in time. It is also focused on strengthening our domestic healthcare system in more traditional areas of the response such as testing and treatment.
“We have a pet project which is to establish in Nigeria one primary healthcare centre in each of our 774 local government areas, which started before the pandemic. Our nation can emerge stronger at the end of the pandemic,” he added.
In his speech, Orji explained that the NSIA was on a mission to drive sustained economic development for the benefit of all Nigerians.
According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented health, social and economic stress on the nation.
“We are thrilled to partner the Global Citizen in launching the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund as the fund manager. Our goal has been to create modern healthcare facilities designed and equipped to international standard to reduce medical tourism and conserve forex.
“Through this partnership, we at the NSIA look forward to working with Global Citizen to innovate and transform the delivery of services to Nigerians in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
In her contribution, Ahmed stated that the priority for the federal government in terms of fiscal response was to ensure frontline health-related spending, to protect people’s well-being, to take care of the sick and also to slow down the spread of the virus.
The minister added that the partnership between the Global Citizen and the NSIA provides the right vehicle for fund management and disbursement transparency in support of the government’s response to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obinna Chima in Lagos and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja